Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Zim opposition leader in Dutch Embassy

from the LATIMES

HARARE, ZIMBABWE -- Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai sought refuge in the Dutch Embassy here just hours after he pulled out of the presidential runoff election scheduled for Friday, citing rising violence by supporters of longtime President Robert Mugabe.

Despite the opposition's withdrawal, the Zimbabwe ruling party's crackdown continued unabated Monday, with 60 opposition activists arrested by riot police in a lunchtime raid at the opposition headquarters. Curfews and door-to-door searches also continued in suburbs of Harare, the capital.

Many of those arrested at the Movement for Democratic Change headquarters had been injured in recent outbreaks of political violence and were sleeping at the office for their safety. More than 80 activists with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change were admitted to clinics in Harare on Sunday, severely beaten by ruling ZANU-PF party operatives when they tried to attend a rally.

In New York, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to condemn the violence and intimidation by Zimbabwe's government and said that "a free and fair election" is impossible at this point.

Nevertheless, Zimbabwe's U.N. ambassador, Boniface Chidyausiku, said after the session that the runoff would proceed as planned and that the Security Council had no business meddling in his country's elections.

Blanket of fear covers Zimbabwe:

.....But the biggest change is the almost tangible sense of fear.

It infects everybody, from Tsvangirai, who cited the rising political violence in explaining his announcement, to one of his brawny supporters.

"These people don't scare me," the activist said with a grimace. "But this time, they've got me spooked."

Two months ago, people sported opposition T-shirts, their cars were covered with posters expressing their anti-President Robert Mugabe views. Now they wear ruling party bandannas and T-shirts (though many privately say it's no more than an insurance policy against violence.)

The hunger for change that spread across the country like a wind blowing everything before it has now shifted. The new wind has the population terrified.

Armed Mugabe supporters chant the slogan "Win or war" while launching attacks on known opposition activists.

Human rights groups say at least 86 have been killed and 3,000 injured. In private clinics around Harare, the capital, dozens of people such as James, a 60-year-old from rural Karoi, are recovering from horrific injuries.....

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